Bad, Bad Bertha

Hood Up and Halted

So, here I sit in my IM-mobile home. A house on wheels should roll, right? Not today. Not tomorrow. Not for the foreseeable future. We need either a miracle or an operational motherboard, both of which seem to be in really short supply.

Saturday began with a quick trip to the grocery store in preparation for a long haul to Colorado. Provisions were packed away, the “stuff” inside the RV was secured for travel, the tanks were dumped, and the site was cleared. We were smiling, singing Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again, and ready for take off. Until we cranked the engine. It started right up, but the RV computer was not receiving the signal. Therefore, we could not close the slide out. Nor could we lift the leveling jacks. We were not going anywhere.

“Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window.” ~ Steve Wozniak

We tried the obvious stuff. The volt meter showed a fully charged chassis battery. Frank, our amazingly thorough and amicable technician, crawled under the truck and traced the wire as far as he could, until it disappeared into the abyss. The cable snaked through to the computer board which was inconveniently located under the bed, which had to be dismantled. There were a plethora of wires that fed into the control panel, but without a schematic it was impossible to select the correct wire. Naturally, we couldn’t get the necessary part from the manufacturer. Their employees were eating hotdogs, drinking beer and watching fireworks.

The plot thickens. We are supposed to be in Indiana by now. We had meticulously mapped out a journey to Lower Cataract Lake, in the White River National Forest to attend a celebration of (a much too short) life for my brother-in-law. Now it appears we have to quickly come up with a plan B.

We are awaiting some return calls, but at present, it looks like we are stuck for another EIGHT weeks, while awaiting the part needed to fix this mess. While I may appear to be taking it all in stride, I can assure you that I am falling apart on the inside. This takes our homelessness to a whole new measure. No brick and mortar, no place to put our house on wheels while it awaits repair.

So now we must cancel reservations, find a place to keep Bertha while she awaits repair parts, find a dog-friendly home for the next few months, plan a whole new route to the Rockies, with pet-loving motels along the way. Retirement is so relaxing.

The only bright note is that if we must be left in the lurch, at least we are near friends, family (with a beautiful pool) and Frank the RV guy.

You can’t make this crap up.

Stay tuned.

Music, Milestones and Majesty

“If music be the food of love, play on.”

William Shakespeare

Who doesn’t love late Spring? It is a time for recitals, graduations, baseball tournaments, pool openings, long, warm days and outdoor entertainment. It is my favorite time of the year. Let’s face it, RV existence is a seriously claustrophobic experience, but our living space seems to expand exponentially as the days lengthen and the temperatures rise. My house may be small, but the size of my backyard is roughly 1.9 billion acres.

Music mesmerizes the soul. It is an international language that we can all understand and appreciate. It makes us want to dance, and to sing. Some are blessed with the ability to speak the prose of melody and the poetry of harmonics. Our grandchildren continue to delight and amaze us with their musical gifts. They are skilled and dedicated to their art. My heart swells with pride when I watch them perform.

We also recently enjoyed an evening at Black Ankle Vineyard, being entertained by a good friend and talented guitarist.

I have always been a bit of a baseball freak. In my youth, I memorized stats, standings and rosters. I can explain what constitutes a balk. I know the infield fly rule, and I can keep a score book with the best of them. I’ve been to countless games, including Spring Training games, and have been to several MLB fields. My boys were both little league all-stars, and my younger son pitched in college. My grandkids are both ball players. We have spent a good amount of time watching their games this Spring. My granddaughter, who is only 9-years-old, is holding her own against 13-year-old girls who are twice her size. (Note photo below. She is the little, pink, 3rd baseman and the player on 3rd is NOT a coach!) She has pitched a few shut-out innings and swings the bat with authority in spite of her size disadvantage. My grandson’s team just won their division championship. Athletic and Artistic; who could ask for more?

Fifth grade graduation was another major milestone. These kids faced so many obstacles during their elementary school years. Undeterred by Covid-19 and a masked-up education, these 5th graders excelled academically. I applaud their perseverance. These young people were the Beta-test, guinea pigs for virtual learning. They made the adjustment with aplomb, and are ready to make their mark in middle school. Should I mention that my grandson was at the top of his class, or have I done entirely too much boasting already?

I am glad that we have been stationary, in a close-to-the-kids campground so that we could participate in these monumental occasions. It has also given us the opportunity to explore the rural area around our site, to take a trip to DC to tour the National Cathedral, and to spend an amazing few days with friends at the Bedford Springs Resort. There is such majesty that surrounds us, be it natural or man made. Stop each day, with an attitude of gratitude, and reflect on the beauty of our world.

Time marches on and we will not be moored at this location for much longer. It is time to prepare for our next move. Westward, Ho!

Stay tuned.

A Fondness for the Familiar

Camden Yards. Home of the O’s

Our journey has taken us to campgrounds near our old hometown for an extended stay. Our house-on-wheels is not rolling around much, which, due to the price of diesel, is a fortunate coincidence. Strangely, idling in this environment, the RV feels almost like home. Almost is the operative word. I miss the comfort of real walls and a basement when springtime, severe storms fire up. I have determined that there are three thunderstorm categories while residing in a truck: 1.) find a friend or family member with a basement, 2.) run to the concrete bathhouse and cover your head, 3.) open a bottle of wine, take a sip, watch the leaves and branches blow by while praying a HAIL MARY or two.

In spite of a stormy spring, I am relishing every day as I open each corresponding door on my ADVENTure calendar. Time passes swiftly when family is nearby, friends are within reach, and familiar haunts are accessible.

A quick trip to my hometown filled me with feelings of nostalgia and gratitude. Much has changed and much remains as it was in my youth. There is such comfort in reliving the recognizable. I regret that there was insufficient time to see a few other lifelong friends. The brevity of my visit was the only downside, but I plan to get back there just as soon as I can line up a few visits with some cherished chums.

If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.

Bruce Lee

We are not wasting time! We have found time for color runs, water parks, Ga-Ga ball, tie-dye shirts, S’mores, and Yogi Bear abductions.

We have spent time at Camden Yards, watching the Orioles beat the Yankees on a warm, sunny afternoon. The win was wonderful but time spent with our son and daughter-in-law was the real prize.

We have cheered on our little leaguers, spent lots of time at the gym, and have taken the time to join good friends for a weekend of frivolity at the beach. No wasting time. Each day is a chance to embrace the unexpected.

And, Hallelujah, there has been progress made at the lakefront!

The location of the house has been staked, and the permitting process for well and septic has begun. We are awaiting a quote from a dock builder, and approval for the site plan from the county.

Eleven (or so) months to go. I’m patient. No, I’m not. I am, however, still committed to enjoying the journey.

Gypsy, at the ripe, old age of 15-months, is still filled with puppy silliness. Sometimes she is a white dog, sometimes she is a blue dog, but left to her own devices, she would prefer to be completely covered in mud. She is beginning to show show signs of maturity, which is sort of bittersweet. We will miss her baby-animal antics, but will enjoy the calm that comes with her advance into adulthood.

Hard to believe that summer is on the horizon. In a few short weeks this caravan will be rolling down the road again…

Welcome each day with a sense of wonder. Stay tuned….

Quordle, Covid and The Land of Lawn Ornaments

Author Joan Didion penned an award winning book entitled A Year of Magical Thinking that deals with grief, mourning, and attempts to avert abhorrent circumstances through hopeful thinking. My upcoming year is not as distressing and certainly not comparable to Ms. Didion’s year of heartbreak. Yet, I do intend to utilize her idea of magical thinking to aid in my trek through the next twelve months of vagrancy. It will be A Year of Embracing Everyday Eccentricities.

Have you played Wordle? Quordle? I am addicted to both. They are an opiate to me. I cannot start a day on the right track if I do not successfully complete both of these word games. I have a serious monkey on my back.

I thought that it would be a good idea to get a booster shot now that Covid numbers are, once again, on the rise. I knew that I would probably get achy and feverish but I bit the bullet and rolled up my sleeve for shot #4. Six hours later every muscle in my body throbbed. I was clammy and cold at the same time. It felt as if I had been pierced by a bayonet at the injection site. I wanted so desperately to just go to sleep, but my arm was pounding and my head was throbbing, and all I could think about was five-letter words that I could plug into Wordle and Quordle. I’m moaning and sweating and thinking: FEVER, AGONY, THROB, CRAMP, CHILL, COVID. You get the picture. I think I need a 12-step-program.

Riders Up!

May is all about running for the roses and making mint juleps. We were not invited to wear feathered, organza hats while sipping bourbon at Churchill Downs and watching the sun go down on our old Kentucky home. Instead, we joined friends at Laurel Park for a thoroughly enjoyable day of thoroughbreds and throwing money away.

It was a day for mudders. It’s been one of those Springs. Bring your boots and bumbershoots.

Meanwhile, back at Ramblin’Pines Campground, we have had a few sunny days and long walks with Gypsy. While meandering about the acreage, I happened to note the large numbers of towering hardwoods, and the near absence of pine trees. Just another comical anomaly. I am easily amused.

Speaking of which, does anyone else out there find lawn ornaments to be too campy (pun intended) for words?

And FINALLY, we have made a concrete step in our home building process. We have met with our site operations manager and now have an overview plan for the construction process…

“Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”
― Aristotle

Stay tuned…

Looking for Light at the End of the Tunnel

With a contract in hand, we are finally moving forward with concrete plans to have a new home built. Site planning, lot clearing, well digging and construction are projected to take a year. A year? We’ve already been living like wayward wanderers for six months. What’s another year?

Another year is an additional 365 days, another 525,949 minutes. Long-suffering perseverance is not my long suit. I am itching to see the light, but we are entering a long, long, tunnel.

So, an RV will be our abode for another trip around the sun. Big Bertha has been good to us, but her floor is constantly dirty, she smells like a dog, and she can be a tad too cold for comfort unless the outdoor temperatures are summerlike. I can endure this. Positive thinking and layered clothing. Breathe in the good. Breathe out the bad. Ommmmmm….

“It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.”
― George Eliot

So, I will breathe in the beauty and breathe out the cramped quarters. In fact, my goal is to turn the next twelve months into a gigantic Advent calendar. I will greet each sunrise by opening a door to see what curiosity will be behind it. It will be an ADVENT-ure calendar, a tool to count down the 365 days while reminding myself that life is an adventure, a trip of twists and turns, an expedition into the unexplored.

Advent is about waiting with expectation while preparing to celebrate. I can do this. I expect champagne at journey’s end.

I will be in my old stomping grounds for the next several weeks. I can shop at stores I am familiar with. I can go to my old gym. I can see friends and family, attend little league games, and engage in familiar activities.

A year feels less daunting when you can subtract the next 57 days. See, I can be optimistic. 308 days seems much more manageable.

It’s been a gray, chilly Spring but a few rays of sun have made it through, bringing promises of warmth. Today, however, is a dank, dreary day, replete with a penetrating rain. It is not a day for getting lost in the woods, or long walks with Gypsy, or sitting around a campfire. There will be no Little League. It is certainly a rain delay kind of day.

As I open the door to my ADVENT-ure calendar, I see the weather and am inclined to slam it shut. Instead, I see that I can go to the gym, run on the treadmill while listening to a podcast and can finish reading RULES OF CIVILITY while whirling my legs on the Elliptical.

Moving from darkness towards light. Positivity is my new superpower.

Stay tuned…

Wanderlust Woes & Wonders

Lake Anna

It is nearing a half year since we kissed domesticity goodbye and headed out on the open road. It would be a big, fat, fib to say that it has been a rose-strewn road of exciting exploits and continual contentment. We have days that are filled with dramatic discovery and days filled with untold tedium. This is not a vacation. It is life in a truck.

One of the downsides to a nomadic lifestyle is the incessant solitude. I’m basically an introvert. So, I relish the peace and quiet. I need time for reflection, but too much isolation is not conducive to a healthy psyche. I am also a social animal that needs to see a familiar face from time to time. My husband has a very nice face and I never tire of seeing it, but after six months I know every freckle, every laugh line and every wayward eyebrow hair. So, it is a VERY GOOD day when old friends, who happen to be fellow RV’ers, can join us for libations, laughter and a round of Scrabble.

“The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold, wet day.”
― Dr. Seuss

I believe that Doctor Seuss had adequately summarized another downside to living in a truck. All is right with the world when it is warm enough and dry enough to make the outdoors your living room. But when the cold rain comes, especially when it lingers for a few days, the living quarters can create claustrophobia. Oh, and if you are blessed enough to have a lovely Labrador, who needs regular constitutionals, you are going to be forced to confront the elements.

Wet dogs have an interesting aroma that further enhances the cabin fever element brought about by inclement weather.

If I love warmth and sunshine, which I do, I should not be in the Mid-Atlantic in April.

There are also good days. In fact, there are GREAT days. I am able to feed my wanderlust during day-long hikes to new valleys and vistas. I can breathe in the scenery while allowing my spirit to soar.

There are campfires, and grilled meals, and owls hooting haunting lullabies.

There is minimalism and simplicity. There is something satisfying about learning to live with less.

There is only one bathroom to clean. When the sky is blue, the accommodations are not claustrophobic; they are cozy. Sure, I have to sweep the floor a dozen times per day, but it takes all of 30 seconds.

Due to close quarters, I am nearly always covered in dog hair. It is no longer bothersome. Learn to like what you cannot change. It is now a fashion statement.

A REALLY great day entails going to the local winery to celebrate signing a contract to have a home built on Lake Anna. Perseverance Pays.

Perhaps now, I can relax and enjoy the next 12 months in Big Bertha.

Light at the end of the tunnel will allow me to appreciate the adventure.

Now back to Maryland and opening day for little league. I cannot wait to see my little sluggers.

Stay tuned…

A home for the homeless?

Lake Anna

There is an Irish proverb that states: “Bricks and mortar make a house, but the laughter of children makes a home.” I could not agree more. Children fill my heart and are a source of unbridled joy. They make me feel as if I have come home.

It was painful when our dream of building a new house, on a lake, fell through due to material costs, supply chain issues and all of the other nonsense that we are confronting in today’s economy. We were feeling defeated, deflated, and directionless. Our trip North took us through Lee State Park (SC), Medoc Mountain State Park (NC), James River State Park (VA) and finally, to Patapsco State Park in our “home” state of Maryland. We were home, but without a home, and with no concrete plans for how to obtain a home.

We had already had an RV site, reserved at Lake Anna State Park, for two weeks in April. Presumably we would be checking on the progress of our new abode. In spite of the angst over our housing dilemma we decided to make the most of it and take the grandkids on a camping trip anyway. No new house to get excited about, but at least we could create memories and heap affection on our favorite progeny.

We had loads of fun, playing games, hiking, making new friends, visiting Civil War battle sites, and traipsing around our empty lot.

Surrounded by love, and feeling very much at home, we decided to try our luck with another builder. It is a work in progress, but it now appears that sometime in 2023, we will have a new house, on our lot, at Lake Anna. The contract is not yet finalized, but we are on the home stretch (pun intended).

Home is the nicest word there is.

LAURA INGALLS WILDER

This, of course, means another YEAR in Big Bertha as the permitting and building begin. The Journey Continues.

Stay tuned….. & HAPPY EASTER!

Ya’ Bums Ya’… Birds, Bucs and More Birds

As I child I could barely wait to pick up the morning newspaper to check the MLB standings and box scores. The Sunday paper had complete statistics. I committed the ERAs, batting averages and slugging percentages of the Pittsburgh Pirates to memory. My mom and her entire family were huge fans of the Bucco’s. She taught me the finer points of the game. It was a passion we shared. After attending Towson University, and moving to the Baltimore area, I began to follow the Orioles, and was soon chanting “Let’s go O’s”, and singing Thank God I’m a Country Boy during the seventh inning stretch. It’s okay to back one National League team and one American League team. I said so.

I was a city kid with no real hopes of ever getting to Florida. It was not on my family’s radar. So, I would go to sleep at night, praying for a trip to Bradenton, when I was supposed to be praying for all of those poor souls in purgatory. It took several decades, but my prayers were finally answered. Well, I mean, I made it to Lecom Park. I can only hope that those poor souls have also made it to their desired destination.

Now, having said all of that, those MLB Bums nearly ruined my miracle because of yet, another labor dispute between players and team owners. For the love of Pete, these guys all make enough money! The owners and the players have all turned into a bunch of fat cats who don’t give a hoot about their fan base. It’s sad, really sad. I remember, as a kid, taking a train to Philadelphia to watch the Pirates and the Phillies play daytime double headers. Yes, real double headers; not the watered-down, shortened inning type. We would sit in The Vet stadium all day, eating affordable hot dogs and popcorn. We brought our own coolers full of beverages. My dad could drink his own beer without paying the price of a case for a single can of lager. Now it appears that even 7-inning double headers are going to be a thing of the past.

In the 80’s, in Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, you could pack your own container, filled with icy cold Natty Boh’s (National Bohemian Beer) and go swill suds with Wild Bill Hagy in section 34. The stadium was filled with fans. Blue collar Baltimore could afford seats. It was not all about corporate suites and who could carry the heaviest money bag.

I’m shamefully guilty of throwing greenbacks at the greedy, baseball barons. I am, however, for the record, disgruntled and disgusted at the present state of a sport I once had a genuine fervor for.

 “When the Sun of compassion arises darkness evaporates and the singing birds come from nowhere.” – Amit Ray

Rant over. Time to move on to the type of bird that does not feather its nest with dollar bills.

While in the land of the Grapefruit League, we wandered away from the manicured fields and onto the prairie lands of Myakka State Park. We took an 11-mile hike that took us through grass, saw palmetto, live oak and palm hammocks. Myakka is enormous, covering 58 square miles. The scenery is breathtaking and there is plenty to do.

A few more days in Florida, then we make our turn North. I am VERY eager to see familiar faces.

Stay tuned…

Fast Cars and Dashed Dreams

I’ve never been a motorhead. I danced ballet, sang in a madrigal group, read classic novels and did lots of other nerdy things. I like to hike in remote areas and use pedal power to bike down long trails. Let’s just say I’m relatively low-key. However, after our recent golf outing, and Googling “must do in Adel, GA”, we came to the realization that there was only one thing left to do. So, we headed to the South Georgia Motorsports Park.

When we arrived, the drag strip was being prepared for a night of racing but the afternoon was dedicated to something called autocross. Stock cars navigated through a maze of orange cones in a race against the clock. There was plenty of loud, engine revving, squealing wheels, and blue smoke that reeked of burning rubber. I was a novice. All of this was new to me. I was hoping to see a drag race, but time (and a dog left in the RV) would not allow us to stay for the main event.

Apparently, though, motorsports is a true passion in the Deep South. From our next campsite, at Lake Manatee State Park, we could hear the unmistakable sound of speed demons putting pedal to the metal. So, on a chilly, sunny, Sunday we trekked the two miles to Bradenton Motorsports Park and finally got to see dragsters, souped-up hot rods, and motorbikes fly down the dragstrip.

I was grateful for the experience, and can see why car enthusiasts are so passionate about it. I’ll probably go back to nature, novels and nerdy endeavors but am delighted to cross one more item off of my to do list.

Most days have been beautiful and warm. Hiking has given me much needed contemplative time during which I digest the fact that our dream of a lake house is an aspiration that will not be coming to fruition. Due to supply and material issues, the cost to build on our lake lot became prohibitive. I’m not always frugal but I am practical. A price tag exceeding a million bucks for a three-bedroom house with an unfinished basement is ludicrous; laughable.

Lake Anna Lot for Sale.

Time to “pick myself up by my bootstraps” as my dad would say, and move on. Reassess. Regroup. Remind myself that there is a reason for everything. Despite the disappointment life will move on.

We are looking forward to catching a couple of Spring Training games before heading back North.

Stay tuned…

Getting a Grip

Yes, that’s me, golfing in sneakers and ill-fitting batting gloves, with a driver that is taller than I am. My dad is chuckling in heaven. He is either mortified or amused. He was a real golfer, one with trophies, and eagles and birdies to his credit. He had golf shoes, clubs that fit, and an actual golf glove (complete with ball marker.) He tried to get me interested in the sport. He wanted to teach me the beauty of medal play but I scoffed at his attempts, telling him that it was “an old man’s game” and that I would rather be grounded for a week than to spend time on a golf course. It would be an understatement to say that I am filled with regret.

“Golf, like measles, should be caught young.”
― Wodehouse

We are just biding our time in Adel, Georgia. We have been camped here a while, and although beautiful, there is not too much to do for entertainment after walking all of the trails and biking around the park. There are times that retirement can be too relaxing.

Fortunately, we stumbled upon Circlestone Country Club, and decided to break out the woods, irons and the wedges. Why not give it a whirl? They allowed public play, and were very accommodating about allowing a “twosome”. Although we rarely (nearly never) play, we brought our clubs on our journey, hoping we would find some time to play nine holes, maybe even 18-holes, if Geoff’s back, and my temperament, would hold out. I’m the type of golfer who is inclined to throw a three-wood into a lake after multiple miss-swings and mulligans.


“It took me seventeen years to get three thousand hits in baseball. It took one afternoon on the golf course.”
― Hank Aaron

So, why was I wearing baseball gloves? Well, if you have not even touched your clubs for six years, and they were collecting cobwebs in the shed, the grips were also slowly dry-rotting away.

On our first day out, the clubs seemed to be melting in my hands. My palms were black. My fingers were black. The seat in the golf cart was turning black. Clearly this was going to be a 9-hole day. We headed to the club house, but they only had men’s gloves, all of which were too large. We got a voucher for another 9-hole day, and headed to Walmart in search of ladies golf gloves.

Hmmm…. no ladies golf gloves at Walmart, and no sporting goods stores nearby. Batting gloves were the next best option. They were a little large, but at least I would not have to wash my hands with acetone.

I am a duffer, a hacker, the kind of golfer that you do not want in your foursome. People draw straws to see who has to take me. I like to envision my tee shots with lots of loft and distance, but most of mine are ‘worm-burners’. Thankfully, the grass was so dry that the ball seemed to roll forever. Yes, sadly, I had plenty of 9-stroke holes, but I did manage a legitimate 4, and enough solid shots to keep me coming back for more torture.

Where do you get new grips when you are rolling around in an RV?

In other news, it took Gypsy exactly three days to completely gut “Bun-Bun”, her (Ha! Ha!) indestructible, tough toy that she received for her recent birthday.

The weather has been warm and wonderful, AND today we are headed to the South Georgia Motorsports Park to check out some Autocross and Drag Racing….. I see another blog coming.

Stay tuned…